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Acupuncture for Migraines

The application of acupuncture for migraines can be very helpful. Many people suffer from this often debilitating condition and an acupuncture course of treatment has often brought about very positive results. The cause of migraine headaches from a Traditional Chinese Medical perspective is different from the Western medical point of view.

What are the Symptoms of a Migraine Headache?

A migraine is a severe, painful, ‘splitting’ headache. A migraine is very often accompanied by light flashes, blackouts, tingling sensations in the arms and legs, nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to light and/or sound. The severe pain that is associated with a migraine headache is often throbbing or pulsating in nature and can typically last from 2-72 hours. The person experiencing the migraine usually has a need to stay quiet and still, often preferring to remain in total darkness until the migraine subsides.

What Causes Migraines? – A Western Medical Perspective

The underlying cause of migraine headaches is not entirely clear but they are believed to be related to a combination of environmental and genetic factors that cause blood vessel enlargement and the release of chemicals from nerve fibres that coil around these enlarged blood vessels. Migraines run in families in about two-thirds of cases and rarely occur due to single gene defects. There are also a number of psychological conditions that are associated with migraine headaches including; anxiety, depression and also bipolar disorder as well as many biological events or ‘triggers’ that have been associated with starting a migraine headache.


Studies of twins have indicated a 34 to 51% greater chance of a genetic influence to develop migraines. The true influence of migraines genetically however is unclear, with much speculation on this subject.


Many migraine sufferers report some form of ‘trigger’ that influences the onset of a migraine headache. Many things have been labelled as triggers but the strength and significance of the relationship between these triggers and the migraine is uncertain. A trigger is something that the individual themselves may have come to be aware of from a personal perspective that triggers their own personal migraine headache. A trigger may be encountered up to 24 hours prior to the onset of symptoms. Common triggers that have been quoted are stress, hunger, and fatigue.

Physiological Aspects

Migraines often occur before or near the menstrual cycle. Other hormonal influences, such as menarche (the first menstruation in young women), pregnancy, menopause, and the use of oral contraception can also affect the onset of migraines. Typically migraines do not occur during the second and third trimesters or following menopause.

Dietary Aspects

Dietary triggers tend to be somewhat from a personal perspective and all evidence related relies mostly on self-reports. It is therefore not clear enough to provide clear information regarding triggers associated with migraines. Many people do however report a benefit of eating more healthy with a reduction in dairy products such as full fat cheese, milk and pastries etc.

Environmental Aspects

Again, from a Western biomedicine perspective, there is no clear view on potential triggers in the environment either indoors or outdoors. However, it is sometimes suggested that people who suffer with migraines should take some preventive measures related to indoor air quality and lighting.

What Causes Migraines? – A Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective

Chinese medicine sees the human body very differently from a Western medical view. It recognises the interaction of the body within the environment surrounding us. It also views the body as a whole, with everything in ternally connected and affecting everything else to a greater or lesser degree. Traditional Chinese medicine doesnt actually recognise ‘migraines’ as such, meaning it doesnt differentiate migraine headaches as an individual condition. Traditional Chinese medicine does however recognise headaches of varying qualities and etiologies, all of which require different treatment applications with different acupuncture points and/or herbs selected.

There are three main causes of headaches in Chinese medicine;

1/ Headache due to the invasion of pathogenic wind in the meridians and collaterals

2/ Headache due to Liver Yang rising

3/ Headache due to deficient Qi and Blood

Wind from the environment really can get into your system and in extreme cases a violent, boring fixed pain can be the result. The headache can be over the top of the head and right down to the nape of the neck and upper back area. It comes as a result of the wind, often accompanied by cold, affecting the flow of Qi and Blood, both of which become stagnant to a greater or lesser degree which results in pain.

Treatment of Migraine headaches with Acupuncture

When applying acupuncture for migraines both distal and local acupuncture points are selected for treatment of migraines are located at the local area of the head as well as distally. The acupuncture points Liv-2 and Liv-3 may be selected as very effective distal acupuncture points for the treatment of migraine. Liv-2 is a reducing acupuncture point that is very effective at reducing many common headaches often associated with the liver and gallbladder. Liv-3 is also a very effective acupuncture point for long-term maintenance of the Liver and a long-term benefit for migraines and many headaches in general.

The application of acupuncture for migraines has been very helpful to many people during and in-between migraine flare-ups. Having a treatment of acupuncture for migraine headaches is well-worth trying, you may be surprised at the results.

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